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Immigration Court - Deportation

If you have a case before an Immigration Judge in court, you are in removal proceedings. Sometimes people call these deportation proceedings. The removal proceedings are to decide whether the United States government is right when it says you should be deported from the United States. Because this is a very important decision, you should try to find a lawyer you can help you through this process.

How do I know that I have to go to Immigration Court?

  • You receive a court date on your Notice to Appear.

Removal proceedings begin when you receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) from the government. If you were caught by immigration officials at the border, you may receive a Notice to Appear. You may also receive the Notice to Appear for other reasons. The Notice to Appear lists the charges or accusations against you, or the reasons the United States says you should be removed from the United States.

If you do not have a Notice to Appear, you should tell the Immigration Judge. Everyone with an immigration court case should receive a Notice to Appear.

  • You receive a letter that says you have to appear in Immigration Court.

I think I have a case in the Immigration Court. How can I find out for sure?

You can call the Immigration Court (EOIR) hotline. The number is 1-800-898-7180.

  • When you call, the automatic hotline will ask you for your Alien Registration Number, or “A number.” This is a 9-digit number that should be on any documents you have from the government related to your immigration. An example is A 123 456 789.
  • After you enter your A number, you can find out when your next court date is scheduled.

What should I do when I get to the Immigration Court?

When you are preparing to go to Immigration Court, you should:

  • Look up the location of the Court. Make sure you know how to get there, and if you are driving, where you can park.
  • Arrive early.  Make sure you leave time to go through the security line in the court.
  • Sign in. When you get to the courtroom, usually there will be a list where you should sign your name to let the Court know that you are ready.
  • Wait for your name to be called. If your name is not called, you should talk to someone who works in the Court before you leave the building.

What will happen in Immigration Court?

The first time you go to court, you will have what is called a “Master Calendar Hearing.” There will be several people in the courtroom:

  • The Immigration Judge. The Immigration Judge’s job is to make a decision about your case.
  • The government lawyer. This lawyer’s job is to try to show why you should be deported.
  • An interpreter. If you do not speak English well, the Immigration Court must have an interpreter for you. If there is no interpreter, ask for another hearing with an interpreter.
  • Your lawyer, if you have one. You should try to find a lawyer you can help you through this process. [Resources]

At the Master Calendar Hearing, the Immigration Judge may schedule another hearing to give the government a chance to prove why you should be deported.

Another type of hearing an Immigration Judge can schedule is called an “Individual Hearing.” That’s when you have a chance to present your case to the judge if you believe you should not be deported under the law. The Individual Hearing is a chance for the Immigration Judge to consider all the evidence, arguments and to hear testimony from you or other witnesses.

What are forms of relief from removal?

There are various ways you can defend against deportation. You should speak to a qualified immigration lawyer or a Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representative for legal advice about your case. For some forms of relief, you may need to apply in front of the judge instead of sending in an application.

Another form of relief is called “Cancellation of Removal.” Some people call this “the ten year law.” To qualify, you must be in deportation proceedings and:

  • Have been living continuously in the United States for the past ten years;
  • Show that you were removed from the United States, it would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to members of your family who are U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs);
  • Show that you have “good moral character”; and
  • Show that you have not been convicted of certain crimes or violated certain laws.

Can I ask for more time to find a lawyer?

Yes. You can ask the Immigration Judge for more time to find a lawyer. Usually the judge will give you a new date to come to court so that you have more time to hire a lawyer. A lawyer will not be provided for you.

What will happen if I don’t go to Immigration Court?

It is very important to attend every Immigration Court date, even if you do not have a lawyer. If you do not attend, the judge will give you an order of deportation, even if you are not there. 

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated May 2016

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